My name is Lauren Lim and I am co-owner of Mr. Friendly, a pet supply store located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bed-Stuy.  Originally from Fullerton, California, I moved to New York in 2010 with my now husband and co-owner, Eddie, to attend F.I.T.’s Accessory Design Program.

Since graduating college in 2007, I have held jobs in education, the visual arts, with a bulk of my experience being spent in fashion and footwear. I have worked for free and have been exploited by brands I admired in order to ‘get my foot in the door’. I have been harassed. I have been bullied and shouted down by male colleagues. I have been called a bitch in two separate workplaces, with little or no consequence befalling the aggressors. After spending years working on a men’s footwear design team, I have heard enough locker room talk to last me a lifetime and as an Asian-American working for companies that primarily manufacture out of Asia, I have seen my fair share of casual racism and cultural insensitivity, at home and abroad.

As a woman of color it has been hard for me to pinpoint exactly which ‘ism’ affected my professional career the most and after 9 years of seeing and experiencing it I convinced myself there wasn’t a place in the ‘Industry’ for me and I stopped showing up for it. I stopped sending out my resume, I stopped working on my portfolio, and I stopped trying to pretend that maybe one day I could fit in and find my place. In many ways I lost my fight and I quit, and depending upon the day it crushes me because I really loved the work.

Since leaving footwear and starting my own brand, I have spent a lot of time thinking, if not agonizing over, how to successfully make Mr. Friendly a 100% toxic free environment for my employees, my customers, and my community. I have gone back and tried to figure out what went wrong in the toxic environments I had spent so much time in. What could I have done to advocate for myself and what could companies have done for me so that it wasn’t so painful when it came time to leave? And while I do not have a track record to present yet, know that I take my position as co-owner very seriously. I do not view sexism as only a “women’s issue”, I do not view racism as only a “POC issue”, and we all have a responsibility to raise our voices against injustice. I am raising mine now and for those that do not know me yet, it is LOUD.